SEC Preview: Media Days
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Off the Hook blog
- South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier addresses the media
- Dave Hooker interviews South Carolina RB Cory Boyd
- Dave Hooker interviews South Carolina LB Jasper Brinkley
- Dave Hooker interviews Kentucky coach Rich Brooks about his quarterbacks coach Randy Sanders, who coached at UT.
- Dave Hooker interviews Kentucky QB Andre Woodson
- Dave Hooker interviews Kentucky S Marcus McClinton
- Dave Hooker interviews Auburn DE Quentin Groves
- Dave Hooker interviews Arkansas coach Houston Nutt
- Dave Hooker interviews Arkansas LB Weston Dacus
- Dave Hooker interviews ESPN's Bob Davie
- Coach: Steve Spurrier
- Record: 20-15 (2 years)
- Last year: 8-5
- Starters returning: 10 defense; 6 offense.
- Outlook: Spurrier has raised the talent level, and, just as important, the program's confidence level. The Gamecocks won't win the East this year but will be getting in the hunt on an annual basis.
HOOVER, Ala. — Say this for Steve Spurrier: He generally calls it like he sees it. Coach-speak isn’t his preferred language.
For the past two years at SEC Media Days, Spurrier wasn’t sandbagging when he said he hoped he could eventually get South Carolina out from under the porch and running with the big dogs in the SEC East.
He was singing a more confident tune Wednesday.
“Our first couple of years,’’ Spurrier said, “we felt like, with our team, our goal was to win more than we lose, and to win a bowl game would be a pretty good year for us.
“We’ve raised our goals this year. We’re going to try to win the conference.’’
Stand warned, Gators, Vols and Bulldogs: The East is no longer just a three-team race.
In 15 years since joining the SEC in 1992, the Gamecocks have finished fourth or worse in the East 10 times.
They ascended to third twice in the mid-’90s when Georgia was struggling. They tied for third in 2000 and ’01. The high-water mark was a tie for second in 2005 when Tennessee fell off form.
“We’ve added a lot of players that we think are at a pretty close level with Florida, Georgia and Tennessee,’’ Spurrier said.
“I know it will be a huge assignment but we need to come to the ballpark feeling like we’re just as good as Florida, Georgia and Tennessee.’’
In his 12 seasons at Florida (1990-2001), Spurrier knew he generally had talent that was superior or at least equal to any team in the league — and said so.
After a failed experiment in the NFL as coach of the Washington Redskins, Spurrier returned to the SEC to take over the underachieving, success-starved Gamecocks in 2005. He wasn’t playing with a full deck but still went 15-10 overall, 8-8 SEC, the past two years.
Now it’s time to up the stakes. Carolina returns 10 starters on defense and in Blake Mitchell, Spurrier has a fifth-year senior at quarterback.
In 2006, Mitchell started the first two games and the last six, giving way in between to Syvelle Newton. Newton is gone, leaving redshirt freshman Chris Smelley as the likely replacement, should Spurrier again grow disenchanted with Mitchell.
“Blake’s the kind of quarterback, we need a running game and we need pass protection,’’ Spurrier said. “When those two things happen, he can be very productive.’’
The offensive line was a mess much of last year, but Spurrier is optimistic it will improve. In Cory Boyd and Mike Davis he has the potential for a solid running game.
Sidney Rice’s defection to the NFL robs the receiving corps of its star power, but Kenny McKinley can be a go-to guy while a talented signing class gets acclimated.
“Kenny gets overlooked every time,’’ said Boyd, who caught 35 passes himself last year.
“Sidney,’’ said Spurrier, “was a good player but his leaving may have helped us sign five really outstanding potential wide receivers.’’
The defense is led by All-SEC linebacker Jasper Brinkley.
The development of some young linemen has allowed twin brother Casper Brinkley to move from defensive end to linebacker.
A brutal schedule includes road games at Georgia, LSU, Tennessee and Arkansas. That will require every ounce of confidence — and talent — the Gamecocks can muster.
Spurrier, at 62, sounds like he plans to stay the course and keep South Carolina pointed upward.
“I feel about like I did when I was about 45, to tell the truth,’’ he said. “I’ve always figured on at least five more years, five to seven.’’
During which, the SEC East should be more than a three-team race.
Mike Strange may be reached at 865-342-6276 or firstname.lastname@example.org.